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And So The End

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- And So The End-

... or is it the Beginning?

 

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Guided by a lonely star

Beyond the utmost harbor bar

I seek the havens fair and free

And beaches of the starlit sea.

 

Ship by ship we’ve traveled west

Past fields and fountains ever blest

Farewell to Middle Earth at Last

I see the stars high above my mast...

--JRR Tolkien

 

 

When stories are first told they are often told correctly but as time passes, which it always does, they get changed bit by bit.  Now it probably isn’t exactly the fault of the storyteller mind you. Often times in their own minds it just sounds better that way and if the story happened to center around a person or an event in history then more than likely the tale will grow.  They are apt to take on minds and lives of their own, unless they are written down somewhere, which mostly doesn’t happen.  Soon it’s more myth than fact and so have many stories been passed on.

 

Now the times of Middle Earth have been gone from the memory of all living things eons ago and the tales of their heroes have grown likewise with their passing.  Only some of them, somehow in the retelling, got a little distorted and so we are here to set at least one of them straight.

 

See, legend has it that Middle Earth's greatest human king passed on and left this world like all mortals do, but the legend was incorrect.  It’s not the fault of the storyteller mind you.  By the time he heard the story it had been passed through so many generations that it was amazing anything of the truth was in it.  For his part he got almost all of the retelling correct but there was one tiny detail that most humans just don’t know of. 

 

For you see the way it really happened was like this...

 

 

Aragorn smiled at his friend.  The elf was obviously pleased with himself as he led the man off the forest path and onto the beach.

 

The king's heart was not in this little outing that the elven prince had dragged him off on.  They had been traveling for days heading ever westward and he secretly dreaded that the elf had brought him to the edge of Middle Earth to bid him farewell and follow his people to the undying lands.  His worst fears were confirmed as he spied the large ship that sat in the small lagoon, it’s white sail huge and unfurled, full in the slight wind that blew in the tiny cove, ready to be off.  The sea reflected the bright clear sky above it and it seemed to the king that one could see right through the water to the sandy shoal beneath.  A lump caught in his throat as he reined his horse in near the edge of the lapping sea. 

 

Legolas was eyeing the craft like an artisan pleased with his handiwork, his blue eyes sparkling.  In his heart he was ready to leave and seek out his people, but the tiny smile that tugged at his lips confused Aragorn.  In all truth the man had really thought, hoped, that the elf would stay until he had gone on.  But who could blame him for wanting to leave and join those that had left before?  Middle Earth was not as beautiful now that the elves had all but fled her shores.  Even Raniean and Trelan had sailed off on the last outbound elven ship.  The king remembered that sad farewell as he gazed back at the smaller replica that sat low in the water.

 

Aragorn smiled slightly, trying to return the joy that painted the elf's face so brightly making him look younger than his thousands of years.

 

"It’s beautiful my friend, truly it is."  Aragorn swallowed the sorrow that threatened him at the thought of his friend’s leaving; Middle Earth would be empty without him.  The king's heart would be empty without him. 

 

"How long have you been working on it?"

 

"A bit." Legolas sighed as he thought of the labor it had taken to create the vessel and make it seaworthy for their journey, the many days and nights he and his companion had secretly worked on it.  "I did have some help though."  He smiled at his friend.  He knew the man well by now and could read the sorrow in the world-weary silver eyes.  Unable to torment the human any longer the elf easily dismounted his horse and walked over to Aragorn's staring up into the dark eyes that watched him.

 

"It’s time to go home my friend."  He whispered to the man.  His hands absently stroked the horse’s thick neck as he watched the human’s response to his words.

 

Aragorn swallowed hard and looked back into the forests behind them unwilling for the elf to see the tears that spilled onto his cheeks.

 

"Telcontar," The elvish form of his nickname and the gentle touch of the elf's hand on his thigh redirected his attention.  "It’s time for *us* to go home."

 

A frown crossed Aragorn's face as he stared down at the prince, shaking his head slightly as he tried to understand who exactly the elf was referring to.  Legolas watched his friend’s response.  The human's silver eyes were still the same as he had always remembered them but the man that was before him was so much older than the youth he remembered meeting for the first time.  Grey tinted the dark hair that swept across his eyes and there were more lines on the older face, attesting to the passage of time.

 

Legolas stepped back and motioned towards the boat rocking gently on the incoming tide, "Come Estel.  Let’s go home."

 

"Legolas…I…I have duties, a kingdom…I can't…" Aragorn stuttered glancing out towards the sea. "And Arwen?  What about Eldarion?"

 

"Strider!"  The elf laughed at the human, "Think you that I would be so cruel as to bring you and not your beloved?"  He laughed as Gimli cleared his throat, redirecting the king’s attention.

 

The small dwarf stood a few hundred feet up the beach back under the trees.  He stepped out followed by the form of a woman, cloaked in a hooded riding tunic that covered her head to foot.  Her slim fingers wrapped around the edges of the hood and easily flipped it back.  Raven colored hair spilled down her shoulders and the circlet of mithril on her forehead caught the glint of the morning sun. 

 

"Gimli?  Arwen?"  Aragorn dismounted in a rush his confusion only mounting.  He glared back at the elf that stood laughing next to him, "What is this you have done my friend?  What is this adventure you are dragging us off on now?"  A small smile touched his lips as he stared at the ever youthful being.  Legolas looked so much at that moment like he had when they were younger and were planning some midnight escape from Rivendell to go hunt orc without Lord Elrond’s knowledge.  "Legolas?"

 

The sound of Arwen's laughter caused Aragorn to glance back.  "And what is so funny my love?"

 

"You darling."  Her footsteps barely crushed into the soft sand beneath her feet as she walked.  She remained still the elf that she was always had been even though she had given up her immortality.  Or had she? Aragorn pondered as he watched her walk towards him.

 

"Did you not wonder why Eldarion would not let go of you when you left?"  She asked.  “Even I saw the tears in his eyes.”

 

"How did you...?"  He stared at his three friends.  "You've been planning this all along haven’t you?"  A huge smile split his face as he watched the dwarf wade out into the cove and climb aboard the boat. 

 

"Yes we have good king. Now if you all would stop chattering and get aboard we can be off," the small being called back grumpily at them. 

 

"What's wrong with Gimli?"

 

"He is heartsick and wishes to be home."  The elf laughed at the dwarf as he watched him stomp towards the forward part of the ship. 

 

"But Legolas, it is home to elves only."  Aragorn looked wistfully to the edge of the horizon. "I would love to see my father and brothers again but mortals are not allowed in the undying lands."

 

"Of course you were not there to hear."  Legolas remembered the conversation well and turned back to his friend.  "Before she left, Galadriel told me of a conversation she had with Treebeard at your wedding feast."

 

Arwen hooked her slender hand around her husbands arm and listened in silence.

 

"We are not meant to live separately in the after life.  We are all creations of Iluvitar, elf, human, dwarf and hobbit alike.  As His own He wants us all to be with Him.  Not just the elves.  Where do you think the Halls of Mandos are my friend - on some distant dark shore?  Waiting?  No, we are all going home."  The elf smiled at his friend.  "Your son knows you are leaving.  The kingdom is in good stead with him as its leader.  Your people have been told that you passed on and that the Lady Arwen has gone back to Lothlorien."

 

"Legolas!"

 

The elf giggled. "It was necessary Estel.  They cannot know, they would all want to follow you over.  You know how much they love you and now is not the time for all of them to come!  Eldarion will take care of everything; he will see to it that they think you entered the undying lands like most mortals must.  He wished for you to come with us also."

 

"Today master elf?!  Are we leaving today?!" Gimli's voice sounded in the small inlet.

 

"Have patience my dear dwarf, you will have plenty of time to gaze upon Galadriel’s beauty when we put in and the voyage is not so long that you will be bored.  Just long enough for you to rest and regain your strength," Legolas teased his smaller companion.  The dwarf’s cheeks reddened at the slight and the friendly taunt of his desire to be amongst the elves once more.  With a grouchy ‘hrumph’ the dwarf stalked back to the forward part of the ship.

 

Turning once more to Aragorn, Legolas stepped forward and wrapped his hand behind the man's head and pulled him forward, resting his forehead against the king’s, "My friend did you really think I would leave you here and go with out you or let you go on with out me?" He whispered unable to bear the thought.

 

Aragorn closed his eyes fighting back his emotions.

 

"Did you really?"

 

"No." The human whispered softly, "Though I feared it."  Arwen’s hand slipped from his arm and he heard her splashing quietly out to the ship, giving the two friends a moment alone.

 

"Did you think that Iluvitar would be so cruel as to forever separate those whose hearts were bound as one?"

 

"It is what I have always been told."  Aragorn opened his eyes and looked into the blue ones inches from his face. 

 

"Then you were lied to."  The elf smiled brightly and pulled the man into a tight hug.  "We go together like we always have."

 

A keen clear cry split the air above them and Aragorn glanced overhead to see five huge eagles circling the inlet.

 

Legolas released his friend and looked up, waving to the birds.  "The last of Gwaihir's kin have offered to lead us out today.  They know the way home."

 

"Then what are we waiting for? Race you to the boat," Aragorn boasted, giving the elf a good shove so that he nearly fell back.

 

Gimli had pulled up the anchor anticipating their journey and the small ship had floated a few feet farther into the bay, forcing them to wade out to it.

 

"That was not fair Strider!  You can’t cheat!"  Legolas splashed into the water next to the human easily gaining his side and lunged for the edge of the boat.  His hands had just grasped the railing as a strong arm wrapped around his waist and pulled him under.

 

Aragorn jumped for the side of the vessel as the elf got his feet under him and pushed to the top of the water.  "I didn’t cheat, a king never cheats.  And I needed the head start!"  He laughed as the prince shook the water out of his hair, the tiny beads dropping back into the sea around them.

 

"Ha!  You just wait until I tell Elladan you said that!"  Legolas stood, and wiped the water from his face, pushing his hair back away from his eyes.

 

Aragorn's hand released the boat rail and he slipped back into the water turning to look at his friend.  Legolas tried to read the emotions that rapidly crossed the human's face.

 

"What?  What's wrong Estel?"

 

"You said you’d tell Elladan what I did."  Aragorn wiped away the water that stung his eyes; water the sea around them had nothing to do with.  "My brother," He whispered as a huge smile split his face and realization truly dawned in his heart.  "I'm really going to go see my brothers and my father!"  With a loud shout the man rushed the elf and grabbed him around the waist, lifting his friend half way out of the water in his exuberance, his booming voice filling the cove, "I am going home!"

 

"Not if you don’t get in this boat you're not," Gimli's heavily accented voice broke the moment and he leaned over the edge frowning at the two beings in the water.  "You coming now?"

 

Arwen watched them calmly as the two friends clambered over the edge of the railing, soaking wet and laughing.  They looked as young as they had when she had first seen them with her brothers in her father’s house.  The Evenstar hung from a silver cord around the man's neck, glittering in the sun as he flopped face down on the warm wooden deck of the boat.  Rolling over he looked at his friend, his eyes bright and alive like she hadn’t seen him in years.

 

The elf sat up, crossing his legs and stared playfully at the human, as he wrung out his wet clothing, flinging drops of water at the laughing man. 

 

"Mendicant," he growled.

 

"Prissy elf," Aragorn spat back before a fit of laughter overtook him.  More slowly than his ever youthful counter-part the man sat up.  He was no longer a ranger, no more a king, but still the human the elf had always known.  He sobered quickly, watching his friend with sharp silver eyes, "Thank you Legolas."

 

"My pleasure Strider."  He returned the brilliant smile before glancing back at the dwarf.  "Master dwarf!  Throw the line up to Urembor he'll tow us out of the bay and head us in the right direction.”

 

With a curt nod the small being moved to the front of the ship.  Grabbing the heavy coil in his hands Gimli held the rope above his head offering it to the circling birds.

 

Urembor swept down away from his kin, signaling them with his piercing cry.  Driving straight at the dwarf he snatched the thick rope in his beak as the little being fell to the deck with a shout of surprise, rolling away from the large bird.  Legolas couldn’t help laughing as he watched Gimli sit slowly up and glare at the great eagle.

 

“You could have been a bit more polite about that you know!” he called after the eagle as it began to pull them slowly around, heading them out towards the open sea.

 

In minutes they had left the bay behind and were caught up in the currents of the deeper water.  The wind filled the sails and the craft leapt across the tops of the waves under its’ own power, heading its passengers for the distant horizon.

 

Aragorn stood slowly to his feet, eyes drifting back to the shoreline.  A slight sadness tugged at his heart as he watched the land recede.  Suddenly a rider on horseback burst from the foliage to the left of the small bay, his steed raced along the cliffs that lined the natural inlet.  The young human’s long dark hair whipped behind him as he paced the ship and he stood in his stirrups and called out to the passengers.

 

Legolas picked up the sound of the voice, recognizing the man only moments after Aragorn had.  The king ran to the railing at the back of the boat and leaned over; cupping his hands around his mouth he shouted to the rider, “Eldarion!!  Take care of yourself my son!”

 

“I will!”  The boy, now a king stopped his horse.  His royal guard finally catching up to him, joined him on the bluff as he shouted back, “I love you father! I’ll see you again soon, I promise!”

 

“I love you too!  I always have.”

 

“I’ve always known!  Goodbye!!  Take care of mother!  I love you both!”  His words could barely be heard above the roar of the ocean as the ship picked up speed.

 

“Ilúvatar keep my child,” Aragorn whispered softly, waving to the tiny figures on the beach.  Arwen joined him, her eyes bright with tears as she watched them disappear from sight.

 

“We already had our goodbyes,” she explained when Aragorn glanced over at her.  He placed his arm protectively around her shoulders, “Eldarion’s known for months.  That is why he has spent so much time with you lately.  He loves you so.”

 

“He is a good  king. He will do well.  The people love him but I will miss him terribly.”

 

“Not for long though my love.”  His wife whispered cryptically and walked away descending below to check out the sleeping quarters.

 

---------------------------

 

The night was warm and the stars were bright in the dark heavens above their heads.  Legolas and Aragorn sat side by side on the edge of the small ship.  The human had removed his boots and let his feet dangle over the edge of the boat.  He rested his head on his arms crossed atop the short railing and stared out into the sea. 

 

He could just barely catch glimpses now and again of the dolphins that chased their wake and swam about them.  The sounds of their breathing were soft in the still night.  Here and there he caught glimpses of the fish that swam in the depths lit by their own phosphorescence.  Instinctively Aragorn pulled his feet up as a gently glowing eel undulated by.

 

Legolas laughed lightly, “You are safe.”  He glanced at his friend out of the corner of his eyes.

 

Aragorn smiled and turned his face towards his friend, resting his head lightly back on his arms again, “Tell me what it’s like Legolas.”

 

“What is it you ask of?”  The elf pulled one knee up to his chest, tilting his head slightly in question.

 

“The undying land.  What is like there?  Do you know?”

 

“Well...” the elf paused thoughtfully remembering all the things he had heard and been told by others.  “From what I know it’s very beautiful.  There is no winter.”  He laughed as his friend raised his eyebrows in surprise.  “Yes, no winter.  There is no death for those who live there.  No tears.  No fear or things that would cause you to fear, nothing evil touches its shores. Oh and there is no sickness.” He laughed as the human gave him a playful shove.

 

“Well thank goodness for that. I have waited for that all my life.”  The man glanced down before he continued speaking.  “But Legolas I am an old man.”

 

“You won't be there.”

 

Aragorn lifted his head and pierced his friend with a serious stare.  “How is this?”

 

“I know not.  I only know that it is true.  You will be young again Estel.” He smiled at the wonder in the man’s eyes.

 

They both jumped as a whale surfaced a few feet away from them, the spray from his blowhole misting the air.

 

Aragorn shook his head in amazement.  “What else?  What do we do there?”

 

“That’s the best part.  You will finally know what it is to live a thousand years and have it feel like only a day.”  The elf smiled broadly at the wonder on the man’s face as he listened in rapt attention.  “The white deer run in herds so thick that there is never want or lack.  And all the ones who have gone before us will be there.”

 

When the man didn’t speak the elf became worried and reached out placing a gentle hand on his friends shoulder.  “What is it?”

 

“Legolas are you sure I should have left Middle Earth this way?”  Aragorn let gaze his follow back the way they had come, searching the distant horizon behind them.

 

“Strider, listen to me. Eldarion is a good king.  The kingdom is in good hands, you have raised him well.  Besides...” the elf stopped speaking and looked back to the dark sea beneath them.  The broken pattern of the stars reflected lightly in the swelling waves.

 

“Besides what?  What aren’t you telling me Legolas?”

 

With a sigh the elf prince glanced back into the silver eyes that searched his own, “Your stay in Middle Earth has come to an end my friend.  Either way it was time for you to leave.”

 

“And you know this how?”

 

Try as he might Legolas could not suppress the smile that tugged at his lips.

 

"Legolas..." Aragorn growled at the elf.

 

"Well let us just say that Mithrandir sent word by one of the great eagles when we returned to Rivendell after Rhazon.  He meant it to encourage me and it did.  I am not at all sure he was supposed to tell me everything he did but you know Gandalf.  But that is the past now."

 

“You’ve known *that* long and never told me?  How could you keep that secret from me for so long?” The man questioned.  His face reflected his astonishment as he stared at his friend.

 

“Believe me Estel, it was no easy matter.  So often where the times I wanted to tell you but could not.  It actually helped with the sea longing though. Instead of aching to leave I longed to tell you that one day we would leave together.  Mithrandir swore me to secrecy and with a threat mind you,” Legolas answered lightly.  He laughed softly at the memory of the day when the letter came.

 

Aragorn chuckled lightly.   "That figures.  Will he be there also?"

 

"Gandalf?"

 

The human beside him nodded slightly.

 

"Oh yes!  In fact if I know him, he'll have turned out all the undying lands just to greet us."

 

Aragorn yawned and stretched the muscles in his back; they ached from leaning over the railing in the cool evening breeze.

 

"Go take your rest my friend.  We will reach the shores of home shortly," Legolas spoke softly, his hand resting on the man's shoulder.

 

With a nod Aragorn stood to his feet and stared down at the elf asking one last question.  "And what about elves Legolas, do they get new bodies as well?"

 

"Us?" he asked with a quirky smile.  He contined when the human had nodded.  "No our bodies do not tire or grow old.  We will simply continue."

 

"Of course only humans," the man muttered as he turned and walked away.

 

"Oh come on, not that same old argument," Legolas called teasingly after the retreating form.

 

With a short laugh the king descended the steps into the sleeping quarters leaving the elf alone on the deck to watch the stars dance through the night sky.

 

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Three nights later Legolas woke them all out of a dead sleep.

 

"Rise, get up quickly.  We are home."  He smiled at the sleepy faces that silently questioned his actions.

 

Aragorn threw the sheets off of him and raced to the top of the steps.  They had been sleeping in their clothes to stave off the chill and for just such an occasion should they reach the shores before daybreak.  He shrugged into this old worn leather ranger’s coat pulling it about him and followed the elf to bow of the ship.  There in the pre-dawn darkness was the looming shape of land and dotting the entire coast were tiny lights bobbing and moving about.  When he listened, he could barely catch a soft melody that drifted to them from the shores wafting out in the night.  Aragorn could just make out the words as elvish.  They were singing a welcome home to their friends.

 

He turned to speak as Gimli and Arwen joined them but was stunned speechless when the sky burst above them in a huge dazzling display of fireworks, proof that Gandalf was indeed among those who waited for them on land.  The little boat pulled up onto the sand bar as thousands of tiny pinpricks of light fell, showering down into the ocean about them as the came to a stop.

 

A cheer rose from the beings gathered on the shore, some familiar some unknown.  Hands reached up to greet the newcomers, assisting them out of the ship that now listed slightly caught on the sands.  They were eagerly and quickly borne to shore and could see now that the thousands of lights they had glimpsed from the ship were in fact torches and candles held by those who awaited them.

 

“Step back now all of you, give them some room,” Gandalf’s booming voice carried down the beach as he approached the newcomers, wading through the crowd that greeted them.

 

Aragorn’s face lit with delight as he caught sight of his old friend.  But the wizard raised his hand stopping the human’s forward motion.  He gently grabbed Legolas and moved the elf away from the man as the rest of the grouping of elves and beings backed slowly away from Aragorn.

 

“Arwen?”  Gandalf eyed her with a smile, inclining his head in welcome, “It is good to see you child, step quickly over here.”

 

“I don’t understand.”  She glanced between her husband and their long time friend.

 

Aragorn swallowed hard, a chill fear creeping over him.  Perhaps the undying lands were truly not a place for humans.  He glanced at Legolas who only shook his head in confusion.  Gandalf had not let go of the elf prince but continued to pull him slightly back away from the man.

 

“Gandalf?” the old king looked at his friend, questioning the wizard softly.

 

“Now there young one, there is nothing to fear.  You are a human and you have just set foot on the undying lands.  You are indeed one of the first to do so in this way,” he answered as though his cryptic words were sufficient.

 

“Why does everyone back away from me?”

 

“Gandalf this is not funny!  That’s Strider!”  Legolas tried to twist away from the Maiar but the wizard’s grip on the elf’s arm tightened and he turned a huge smile on the prince.

 

“Wait and watch,” he spoke, quieting the elf he held.

 

“Aragorn take a step towards me,” the wizard instructed.

 

With more fear than he dared to admit even to himself the man took a step out of the reach of the tide and onto the dry shores of his new home.

 

The air shimmered around the human stopping his forward movement.  Light danced on the wind, encircling his body.  When he breathed in it seemed the very particles were charged with electricity or was it joy, Aragorn was not sure.  Bright sparks of light leapt around the king.  In retrospect no one could say whether the light shot up from the very ground itself or fell from the sky but it shielded his entire body from the sight of those on the beach, weaving in dancing colors through the curtain that rained around him.  Aragorn closed his eyes tightly as it brushed through his body.  It felt as though his entire being was aglow, on fire from the energy that coursed through him and at once he was at peace.  There was no one else but he in the universe and he heard the sound of a voice he would never forget speaking softly to him.

 

“Welcome home my child.”

 

“Gandalf?” Legolas whispered to the older man next to him.  He held tightly to the Maiar gazing in wonderment as his friend was shielded from view.

 

With a small laugh the wizard turned to the elf, watching with amusement the wonder on the young face, “Yes?”

 

“Is he...?”

 

Gandalf couldn’t help the smile that broke out on his wizened old face.

 

“Is he...?” Legolas tried to finish the sentence again. Holding one hand up he had to shield his eyes, as the light intensified.  A warm wind blew out across the elves generated by the energies at work.  “Is he alive?”

 

“Oh yes, my young friend and just wait...,” Gandalf stopped speaking as the light dropped, disappearing into the sands beneath the human’s feet with a small sigh.  “Wait until you see him now.”

 

Legolas’ mouth dropped open and he simply shook his head as he walked slowly forward.

 

A soft blue glow emanated from the man not unlike the one that encased the elf as he walked in the now dark of night again. 

 

“Aragorn?”

 

At the sound of his name the ranger glanced up, smiling broadly at his friend.  Legolas fell back a step stunned.  The man who gazed upon him was not the one who had stepped off the boat moments ago; this was the ranger he had known in his younger years.  The lines of age had smoothed, the grey that tinted the noble head was gone.  The slight stoop of the age-old shoulders had disappeared, and the exuberance of youth shown in the silver eyes that stared back at him.

 

“Legolas?”

 

“You are Strider once more,” the elf whispered, reaching out to gently touch the youthful face with slight awe. 

 

Soft sounds of the elves whispering around them caused the human to glance into the crowd.

 

"Strider!" Legolas shouted the man's name and threw himself at the human, catching his friend in a tight hug, "You are home my friend, you are home’" he whispered into the ranger's ear as Aragorn laughed and tightened his arms about the elf.

 

"Estel!"  A shout from the crowd caught the friends’ attention and they turned as two elves pelted up the beach towards them.

 

"Estel?"  Another elf fell in with the others racing forward to greet the human.

 

"Elladan! Elrohir!"  Aragorn turned and opened his arms towards the two figures heading straight for him.  He braced himself as the dark haired elves enveloped him, asking him a thousand questions at once, each one talking over the top of the other and finishing the other’s sentences.  Behind them Moranuen stopped and stared at the man.  Tears ran down the elf’s smiling face as he watched the long waited for reunion.

 

Legolas was surprised by his own welcoming committee as a roar went up from behind them and Trelan and Raniean led a pack of elves straight for the prince.  All his loyal companions that had stayed with him in Ithilien through the long years of restoring it swarmed the fair-haired elf.  With more dignified reserve, yet just as big a smile, Thranduil approached his son, a beautiful elf woman on his arm, and Legolas’ face practically shone as he greeted his father and mother. 

 

Aragorn reached over the top of Elrohir's head and grabbed Moranuen pulling the elf in close to him.

 

"Oh Mora, I never thought I'd ever see any of you again."  Tears streamed down his own face as he talked quietly with his brothers and his old friend. There were others that he recognized now in the group that had moved back in close to him once more.  But he had yet to catch a glimpse of the one elf he longed to see above all others.

 

"Estel?" a deep soft voice behind him called to the man and the twins stepped quickly back, smiling at the one who stood just beyond their brother.

 

Aragorn turned and fixed his tear-filled eyes on Elrond.  The elf still looked as he always had but there was a vibrance about him that he noticed surrounded all the elves.  He wondered absently if he looked to them the same way, but he had no time to ponder such thoughts long as he fell into his father’s arms and held the older elf tightly to him. 

 

"Father. I missed you so."  His words were rough with emotion as Elrond held the boy.  He had watched as his son had been transformed from the older man that stepped ashore into the youth that Elrond had always remembered.

 

"My son,” he quieted the boy against him, holding him tightly, resting his cheek against the top of the human’s head.  "It has been so long.  I have missed you as well."  Moving back slightly so he could gaze into the silver eyes, Elrond smiled and took the human's face in his hands, moving his thumbs gently under his sons eyes and wiping away the tears, "Now haven’t you been told yet, there are no tears here."  He kissed Aragorn softly on the forehead. "All the tears you will ever cry again will be left here tonight on this beach.  Welcome home Estel."

 

"I heard Him father! I heard Ilúvatar, he spoke to me!" Aragorn whispered softly his eyes locked on the older elf. "He said welcome home also."

 

Elrond smiled knowingly and nodded.  "Yes and you will hear Him many times more."  Looking around them, the elf motioned to Legolas and pulled the prince close to him. "Come let us go up from this place.  We have a celebration to attend!  We have new family that has come home!"

 

As one those on the beach retreated back into the woods heading home away from the coast.  Legolas turned and sought out Gimli.  The elf was standing on the sandy bar next to Galadriel.  The two watched as the boat the dwarf and his companions had made their way over the sea in slowly faded, its substance becoming insubstantial and light as the mists.  Haltingly it disappeared into the night, a thousand tiny pinpricks of light flying back into the starry expanse and joining the twinkling stars that glittered above them.

 

"Gimli?" 

 

"I'll be coming master elf."  The dwarf turned back following Galadriel towards the small knot of family and friends that still remained.  "I'm hoping there is plenty of good mead at this celebration you were speaking of Lord Elrond."

 

"Please it is only Elrond here.  And you master dwarf are home, you may have all the mead you like." The older elf swept his hand before him indicating the way they should go. 

 

He slipped his arm around his daughter, kissing her lightly and escorted her back through the woods as Elladan dared the lot of them to beat him back to their home.  Raniean, Trelan, Moranuean and Elrohir chased off after him with Legolas and Aragorn following behind too excited to simply be among their loved ones once again to give the dare much thought.  They laughed as they ran and it was as if they had always been here, the past long forgotten as eternity stretched out before them.  They were together once again as they had always been in Middle Earth, elf prince and human ranger.

 

"Now we are almost complete," Galadriel spoke up softly as she gained Elrond’s side welcoming Arwen with a smile. 

 

"Almost," Elrond agreed.  "But there are still more that are yet to follow.  There will be many more."  He glanced over his shoulder and watched the far horizon before following the others home.

 

And that my friends is how it really happened but like I said, so much gets lost over the years and humans have forgotten that this world is not all there is to life.  No matter how bad it gets you can never loose hope because just over the horizon or around that next bend you'll see for yourselves the shores of home welcoming you too. A thousand lights will be waiting for you as you make your way to shore to the sounds of singing friends and family, celebrating your homecoming.  You will hear Ilúvatar’s voice speaking your name and if you look closely enough you may even find a fair-haired elf and a silver-eyed ranger among those waiting for you on the far shores of home.

 

 

THE END

 

Or better still, THE BEGINNING...